A Farmer who claimed travelers forced him to put jar of Heinz baby food laced with shards of metal in Tesco has been found guilty of contaminating the jars of baby food with shards of metal and blackmailing supermarket staff about their whereabouts.
According to the farmer who claimed that he did what he did because they threatened to kill him and family unless he helped them blackmail supermarket giant, court hears.
The 45-year-old Nigel Wright deliberately spiked jars of baby food with fragments of blades as part of a plot to blackmail Tesco for £1.4 million worth of bitcoin between May 2018 and February 2020.
Wright, from Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, sent dozens of letters to the supermarket chain offering to reveal the location of products he claimed to have contaminated in exchange for cryptocurrency, the court heard.
His trial at the Old Bailey previously heard how two mothers, one in Lockerbie and one in Rochdale, were just moments away from feeding their infants shards of metal when they spotted them.
In his evidence on Friday, Wright admitted sending the letters, but claimed travellers had come to his property demanding he give them £500,000.
He said the threats began when he fired a warning shot with his shotgun at a group of men who had come to his property looking for scrap metal.
Wright said the men returned to his farm some days later, pinned him to the ground and threatened him with a knife.
‘One said ‘I want your farm’, I said ‘I can’t give you my farm’, then he said ‘I want the money to buy a farm’,’ Wright said.
He said the unknown men had suggested he either rob a bank, start stealing cows or poison a supermarket to raise the cash.
Wright said one man in particular kept returning to threaten him.
‘He came back and said ‘where’s my money?’
‘I told him I had contacted Tesco and asked them for money – I gave him a copy of the letter I had written,’ he said.
‘I hadn’t sent it – he said ‘I’ll kill your wife and your children’ so I had to post that letter.’
When asked why he did not just go to the police, he said: ‘I’ve been to the police in the past and they’ve failed me.’
Wright said he would have no idea how to contaminate the baby food, and that the men threatening him had given him the jar found in Lockerbie and forced him to plant it there.
‘If I didn’t get this money this guy was going to carry out these threats, he was going to hurt my family,’ he said.
Wright denies planting the contaminated jars that were found in Rochdale.
As a result of Wright’s letters, Tesco issued a recall of 42,000 jars of Heinz baby food and 140,000 jars of Cow and Gate baby food.
There is no evidence that any more than the three jars discovered had been tampered with.
Wright denies two counts of contaminating goods and three counts of blackmail against Tesco.
He faces a further charge of blackmail for allegedly demanding £150,000 worth of bitcoin from a driver with whom he had had a road-rage altercation.
The defendant claims he wrote the threatening letter to the driver as a form of therapy to get the incident out of his system, and that his wife had accidentally posted it.
Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said through his letters, Wright was playing ‘cat and mouse’ with the supermarket chain.
He added: ‘The jury may think (the letters) indicate that the blackmailer was rather enjoying the game, rather than acting in fear of his life.’
The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.
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